First: I keep working like a maniac, thinking I’m making time to write at week’s end, but that time never happens. By Friday, my time is stale and moth-eaten and stuffed full of dirty laundry so starting next week, I’m going to do the writing first, then the work. I know, I know, every Successful Person knows this, but I’m just figuring it out now and I must admit, the idea that I get to write first fills me with impish elation. Wheee! I get to eat my candy first!
Second: I want to take a class. Not that I have any spare time, of course, but I’m going to do it anyway because I want to have some new thoughts and ideas. At first, I thought what I should do is to sit in a big hall full of quiet people listening to an brilliant, enthusiastic person talk on and on about something they’re passionate about. You know, someone who’s examined this thing, any thing, from every angle and who gets all misty-eyed and wild-handed and spitty when they talk about it. But then I thought maybe I should take a writing class. It couldn’t hurt, right? I could kill two birds (class and writing) with one stone. But then, I wonder I’d get the most bang from my buck: from the passionate lecture or the group experience? Where will I find the most interesting ideas? Do you take classes and, if so, what do you think?
Third (I know, I need to break myself of the habit of the magic three, but I really only have three things to say): Instead of starting new ideas, I’ve been rehashing old ones. I’ve been fooling around with many pieces I’ve “published” here on Girl in the Hat, giving them some elbow grease and a spit shine. It’s funny, but I think for me, I don’t know how a thing should end until it’s been at least six months since I ended it. At that point, I can finally see what I was going for. Endings are so fucking hard. The other night we had dinner with friends and we started talking about movie endings, and I was telling them how I’d participated in a field test for the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley. Mostly, the filmmakers wanted to know if we, the audience, wanted a happy, neat ending or if we could stand a messy, ambiguous one. They spent a truckload of money and let us watch the movie for free just to find out what kind of ending we wanted. Of course, most of the audience members were vociferous about their preference for having everything wrapped in cellophane at the end and I came away feeling acutely aware that what rings true and good and real for me is completely not what does it for most people. But what’s right or best? Who knows. It’s a moot point, really.
So below, I’ve changed this poem’s ending to have three options, and I’m curious which one you like best. Do you like a, b, c, the poem with three endings, or the one in which I choose the ending without asking for your opinion? Scroll down to answer the poll, if you will.
Fourth (to try to break myself out of the habit of three): Hey! How are you?
I feel funny in a bathing suit.
Like a punctured beach ball
mended with a flimsy band-aid.
But here I am, floating down river,
feet recoiling from slimy
rocks, arms splashing, hatted head bobbing
duck-like around the bend,
where a suntanned woman has unfolded
her chair right at the edge of the water,
and she lounges just ahead, smiling
at the sky. To my right, a large chunk
detaches from a boulder and skitters
forward on wooden legs, pointing a shiny black
nose at my head. “He’s friendly!”
calls the woman while he sniffs
the air muscularly and starts growling, stiff
pacing, back and forth, on the shore.
“He’s just a big baby!” she yells,
her words drowned by snarling,
and while I, soft, pale piece of meat,
bob and splash along, I’m thinking
the only thing to do is offer my hand
and when he bites me, just stick it in
and keep pushing, as far as I can
past the teeth, to wedge tight
between the palate and the tongue.
A wasp is buzzing over my sandwich
“Go away,” I hiss, but it doesn’t listen
so I say it again, louder this time and again
each repetition increases the warning
in my tone of voice and my words’ vibration
a promise to smash him with my fist if he doesn’t listen
I’ll take this rock and crush him, but before I do
he zigzags off upriver along the limnal, whetted shore
and after I’m done eating, I lie back on the blanket and wonder,
am I like the dog or the salami
am I a bark or a bite?
The cicadas’ siren song finally sinks in and I’m just getting used to the shape of my
own thighs and the smell of myself pooling in every crevice as I loll atop a slab of hot
granite and even the shock of water has grown familiar, even the way minnows trail
behind me like hungry acolytes, and I’m sliding dizzy over sunken furry boulders in
the glittering river, knowing nothing but cold on skin and sun in face when it strikes
from behind, clamps tight on my Achilles tendon, and I’m flapping my hands and howling
at the long black snake shooting back under a rock, turning to stumble back towards…